Irish Aid Programme Review: Discussion (Resumed)

The second part of the meeting is a discussion with the Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora and international development, Deputy Ciarán Cannon. The Minister of State and his officials are very welcome.

We are at a critical juncture in our overseas development programme. In recent weeks the joint committee has had an opportunity to hear expert presentations by Irish Aid non-governmental organisations; the former permanent representative of Ireland to the United Nations, Mr. David Donoghue; representatives from academia and ambassadors of partner countries. The committee's review is timely from the perspective of recent statements and commitments made by the Taoiseach and the Government on the doubling of Ireland's global footprint and increasing our overseas development aid. It is also the case that two years have passed since agreement was reached on the targets set in the sustainable development goals. As a committee, we must support and push the Government to ensure Ireland will meet all of its commitments by 2030.

The format of the meeting is that the Minister of State will make an opening statement, after which we will have a question and answer session with members. I remind members, delegates and those in the Visitors Gallery to ensure their mobile phones are switched off completely for the duration of the meeting as they cause interference with the recording equipment in the committee room.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person outside the House or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the Chairman to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

I invite the Minister of State to make his opening statement.

I say, "Good morning," to my Oireachtas colleagues and our guests in the Visitors Gallery. I thank the joint committee for affording me this opportunity to discuss Ireland's policy on development co-operation. In the first instance, I welcome the committee's initiative to review Ireland's policy on development co-operation. As I am sure those members who visited Malawi and Mozambique earlier this month will have witnessed, this is work of which Irish people can be truly proud as it makes a substantial difference to people's lives.

My colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney, sends his apologies. He is preparing to take Leaders' Questions in the Dáil Chamber in a few minutes. I am joined by a number of colleagues from the development co-operation division, namely, Mr. Ruairí de Búrca, director general; Ms Nicola Brennan, head of the policy unit; and Ms Nicole McHugh, also from the policy unit. All three of my officials have worked in both the field and headquarters.

The various hearings held by the joint committee have made manifest to all of us that our world is shrinking and growing in complexity. Europe's immediate neighbours in the Middle East and north Africa and even Ukraine are troubled. Four major famines in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northern Nigeria are all the result of the failure of politics. Significant population movements are under way, north and south, and there is instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, which I visited recently, and elsewhere. In the autumn we saw the devastating effects of climate events as hurricanes hit many Caribbean countries hard. Drought is feeding conflict and famine. In the midst of all of these challenges, poverty continues to blight the lives of too many people, not least in Ireland's partner countries in Africa and Asia.

Ireland is not unaffected by events elsewhere. We saw, for example, the risk posed by the Ebola virus. Containing the spread of that awful disease required an investment in health system strengthening in countries of origin. We saw how Irish expertise and dedication, which members may have seen in the recent RTÉ documentary "The Thin Green Line", was important in ensuring that there was a successful response to that crisis. Irish Aid played its part. It must continue to play a role in ensuring that the systems are in place to avoid similar crises in the future. That was why I was pleased that my Department, together with the Department of Health and the World Health Organization, hosted the Global Forum on Human Resources for Health in Dublin earlier this month. Over 1,000 delegates, including many at ministerial level, from across the world, representing both developing countries and those more advanced, were present. A key element of their discussion was the interconnection between countries, how we can learn from each other and the importance of working together to address problems.

Working together with others to address problems is at the core of Ireland's approach to foreign policy. It is why Ireland is committed to the multilateral system - a rules-based international system that is best placed to lead the response to the global challenges we face. It is a system that has its imperfections just like any other. This is why Ireland strongly supports the UN Secretary General in his reform process. It is also why Ireland has indicated that it is a candidate for a UN Security Council seat for 2021-2022. Success in that election would allow Ireland to advocate for the core values of our foreign policy - peace and security, justice, equality and sustainability - at this important forum, with an emphasis on the development dimension in our approach to matters taken under consideration by the Security Council. Our role at the UN in brokering the sustainable development goals, SDGs, is a very real and tangible demonstration of how Ireland makes a difference at the multilateral level. The targets set by the SDGs - also known as Agenda 2030 - are ambitious and set a context for the future work of Irish Aid and Ireland's wider development assistance. Ireland will take on various leadership positions within the UN family over the coming period, such as chairing the lead UN humanitarian donor group, chairing the Commission on the Status of Women and our membership of boards of UNICEF and the World Food Programme. All these positions provide real opportunities to positively influence the international development agenda.

Ireland's membership of the European Union allows us to work closely with other member states and with the European institutions to ensure the delivery of targeted and effective aid. With like-minded states, Ireland has an influential role in Brussels regarding determining policy priorities and ensuring that global issues are addressed. It involves issues such as emergency response, where on our own we are too small but where working through the EU allows us to make a real difference. Of course, working with others requires some give and take. That is where our influence, knowledge and experience make the difference in ensuring that our voice is not just heard and respected but acted upon. This is the judgment of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee, which, in its most recent review of our development co-operation programme, noted Ireland's global leadership role on our priority issues, in particular hunger and nutrition.

I saw our influence at first hand last month when I visited Tanzania. We have a very respected voice among the donor group - in part as we leverage our EU membership. I saw also how our advocacy is heard by Tanzanian partners, including government. Furthermore, I witnessed the real needs which too many people in Tanzania and elsewhere face. I saw: hundreds of thousands of refugees with insufficient food rations; the logistical challenge of getting water uphill so that increasing numbers can drink and wash; children who may never return home getting schooled, sometimes under a tree because classrooms cannot be built quickly enough; and dedicated medical workers ensuring that care is given to those who need it and working in very difficult conditions which require the creative use of scarce supplies.

These are challenges which Irish Aid, working with others, is helping to address through our long-term development programmes in partner countries, including Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia, and – outside Africa - in Vietnam. I know that the Chairman and some committee members saw these challenges during their recent visit to Malawi and Mozambique. However, although there are significant challenges, thankfully, there is also hope, which I am sure the Chairman and members also witnessed. Real changes are being made in people's lives. Tiny payments, as social security systems are being built up, allow people to start small businesses or keep their kids at school. I saw children grasp the opportunity of education in Tanzania. I saw extraordinary women who are the recipients of this social welfare support starting small businesses in their villages in order to help sustain their families and, indeed, the larger community. We saw more and better teachers, better agricultural techniques, seeds, improved access to markets, the roll-out of health centres and improved capacity of health workers, some of whom have been trained in Ireland. Ultimately, we are seeing small but incremental steps to improve the resilience of the most vulnerable.

I also saw the need to create jobs and build more sustainable economies. For me, this is a very significant part of the challenge for the future, particularly for the African continent. We met people involved in education in Tanzania who told us that 1 million more people enter the workforce every year. Ethiopia, for example, needs to create 2 million jobs per year, every year. This figure represents all the jobs in Ireland every year. Kenya needs to create 1 million jobs per year, every year. These are very significant challenges in terms of an emerging workforce, young people with huge ambitions for themselves, their communities and their country. This will be a very significant challenge in terms of skills development and other issues in the future. However, Ireland is helping address this need. For example, Irish potato seed technology will transform the yield on Kenyan farms. Such farms currently produce an average of seven tonnes of potatoes per hectare in a year compared to 70 tonnes in Ireland. We are already seeing improved storage techniques being used to help farmers sell their potatoes months after harvest and to ensure a proper supply to processors and resellers elsewhere. It is planned that greater yields will allow for investment in value addition and in creating many of those badly needed jobs.

Essential to our work are our partners, particularly the Irish NGOs with which Irish Aid works closely in many parts of the world. I do not wish to single out any particular organisation because all our NGO partners bring real value. Some are household names while others are small but with a singular and very effective focus. Their contribution, often in difficult circumstances, to addressing humanitarian and development need is something important that Irish Aid supports. Notwithstanding the challenging budgetary situation of the past few years, the percentage of Irish overseas development aid to NGOs remained at over 30% of all Irish assistance, which is very high by international standards in comparison with other donors. Looking back, much of the path-finding for Ireland’s relationship with development co-operation, and with Africa in particular, owes much to our missionaries who we continue to support through Misean Cara. Their good work continues to make a positive difference in improving people's lives.

Looking ahead and with the budgetary situation becoming regularised, it is the Government's intention to grow Ireland's overseas development aid. The Taoiseach has reiterated the intention to reach the UN target of 0.7% of gross national income by 2030. Our effective, well-respected, development co-operation programme is an important component of Ireland's global footprint. In growing our programme over the coming years, it will be important to ensure that it continues to be efficient and effective. This committee's current work regarding Irish Aid is important because it will assist us in looking to future directions.

At present, Ireland's development co-operation priorities are as set out in the One World, One Future document published in May 2013. That sets out three goals: reduced hunger and stronger resilience; sustainable development and inclusive economic growth; and better governance, human rights and accountability. As we begin to think about future directions, we have decided to review One World, One Future with the intention of bringing forward a new White Paper on development co-operation in the middle of next year.

In advancing our thinking and ensuring that our development co-operation is fit for purpose for the next decade, it will be important that it remains grounded in who we are. It should reflect us and our history, which includes our particular experiences of famine and migration - something that is still very much alive in our national memory. It should allow us to project our present, which includes our experience within living memory of moving from poverty to relative wealth and from the subsistence agriculture of our grandparents to being one of the world's great food producers. We need to preserve the strengths of our current approach, including our focus on vulnerability, nutrition and humanitarian response as part of our response to the SDGs.

We must make sure that we have the right people with the right skills in place to manage our programme not just prudently but effectively as we work to reduce poverty. I am convinced that to do so is not just in the interest of our partners abroad, but in our own national interest. Let us imagine a world where today's demographic bulge in Africa is a true demographic dividend, where those millions of jobs I mentioned earlier have been created in a context where the sustainable development goals have been realised. That must be our ambition and we can help make that happen.

As I am speaking on Leaders' Questions I will have to leave early. I congratulate Deputy Cannon on his appointment as Minister of State. He referred in his speech to the delegation that recently visited two countries in Africa. I was part of the delegation to Malawi and Mozambique. I am sure Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and the Chairman will elaborate more on that. The clerk travelled with us.

I pay tribute to our ambassadors in both countries and the staff they have in their offices. They do tremendous work. I do not think 99% of the people in this country realise the tremendous work the ambassadors and their staff do abroad to promote projects. We visited a number of projects. The cash transfer was the one I found most impressive. It involved only €10 a month. There is an old saying, give a little, it could help a lot, but by God it does. We visited an irrigation programme where water is now provided. A little co-op was set up and little business people run it. They are feeding themselves and making a few bob in selling their produce. I think approximately €80,000 or €100,000 was invested but it is remarkable to see what it has done for a small village. In Mozambique the Irish lead the education programme there. They provide funding for other countries as well. People work together and co-operate. That is an excellent approach to having a scheme involving more countries.

When we met with the EU ambassador he was highly impressed with the Irish team in Malawi and the programmes that are in place. He said that if the Irish office in Malawi had more staff it would give some funding to it to work on its programmes. I am sure the Chairman and Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan will elaborate on that also. Perhaps that is something that should be explored further with the ambassador in Malawi. It just shows how the Irish are viewed out there. I must also mention the tremendous work of the missionaries there.

As I said at the ambassador's residence the night we were there, everybody in the Oireachtas should go to see what the Irish Aid programme does in Africa. I know that might not be possible but if all Members went they would come back and fight to increase the aid. One often hears people ask why we are giving money to help people abroad and that we should look after our own first. People in Africa are human beings as well and they feel pain and hurt. They suffer from starvation and death. When we met the foreign affairs Minister in Malawi I asked what is the biggest challenge facing the African continent. The Minister of State referred to it in his opening statement. It is population growth. The Minister of State referred to job creation. Malawi has a population of 17 million and the projection is that it will be 40 million by 2030. That is a major problem on the African continent and it will have to be addressed. That is unsustainable. The country is struggling to feed 17 million so how will it feed 40 million? As has been said, Tanzania is not going to create 2 million jobs a year. That is not possible. I do not know what to do but I am a firm believer in education. If one educates people that might be the way forward. I wish the Minister of State the best of luck and congratulations on his appointment.

It is good to see all the witnesses back here again and the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon. I fully agree with what Deputy Grealish said about our recent visit. It was a very comprehensive and full-on visit. We have amazing ambassadors in Gerry Cunningham and William Carlos. I acknowledge them and their staff. I also acknowledge their wives who play a role that is often not acknowledged at all.

The projects Deputy Grealish mentioned are very impressive. I also wish to mention food and nutrition and what is being done in that regard with Irish support to ensure that babies, children and women were getting the right amount of nutrition. It is great to see the provision of education and in particular girls going into education but it must be quality education. It is not enough to just get the numbers in and to tick the boxes to say there are more people in education. We must be really strong on the kind of education they are getting.

There is no doubt about the value of our bilateral aid but that brings us to questions about multilateral aid. People have said it is important that we are part of the multilateral aid programmes but there is a need for rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the aid so that we know exactly where it is going.

We are a member of the Ireland-European development fund management committee. That is not something we hear about yet we are a member of it. What is happening in that regard? Could the Minister of State also speak about the monitoring of the development co-operation budget?

Ireland and other countries are expressing concerns about the EU trust funds yet we are doubling the money we are giving. There is no doubt about the difficult situation in Libya and concerns have been expressed but the funding is still going into a country that is dysfunctional. It would appear that a lot of the money is going to the various groupings but they are militia groups as well. There are genuine concerns over where the money is going. Dreadful reports are coming out about slave markets. At an informal meeting with another NGO this week the point was made that sometimes organisations come in and make one visit and they do not go back to follow up on the first visit, when the funding was given, to see where it is going. It is not enough to express concern, we must be more proactive.

I acknowledge all the submissions we got from the various organisations. One thing that came through to me was the importance of policy coherence. Our decisions on climate change and tax must be complementary to our humanitarian budget because sometimes they are not. I acknowledge in particular the submission on disability. Perhaps we can put in a specific percentage requirement for disability funding for bilateral and multilateral aid to show we are conscious of people with a disability, both mental and physical.

We see an increasing military agenda in Europe. It was great to see the recommendation on human rights and business but there was no mention of the arms and weapons industries and that was disappointing.

Because Irish Aid is so valued and respected, perhaps there is a need to look at extending it to other countries. This year I became chair of the Irish-Nepal friendship group. I met a number of the Nepalese community in Ireland and their Irish supporters. There is no doubt that they would love Nepal to be considered a partner country. I do not know whether we could have mini partners as opposed to major partners but it would be very good to look at that. Could the Minister of State also comment on our relationship with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, funding?

I thank Deputies Grealish and Maureen O'Sullivan for their kind words. I agree wholeheartedly with Deputy Grealish. He paid significant tribute to the staff of our embassies. My experience as a junior Minister in education from 2011 to 2014 working with the embassies, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA in trying to attract additional investment and students was exceptionally positive. That positive experience of being a Minister of State in education has translated into my current role.

My recent visits to both Tanzania and South Africa have impressed upon me the absolute commitment and professionalism of all our people who work abroad. They are ambassadors for Ireland and they do it in the most effective way possible.

I also found interesting the deliberate and wise recruitment of a significant number of local staff at our embassies. These are extraordinary people who have so much to offer and, let us be frank, have a lot more skin in the game when it comes to furthering the aims of their communities. They derive huge pride from being recognised by our embassies and people abroad as being the very best that can be recruited in the region. It is wonderful to see the deep professional relationships being developed by Irish embassy staff, our people here in Dublin and Limerick and those local staff abroad. Not alone in terms of international development but in terms of the future relationships that will exist between our two countries, developing those relationships now with our local staff will serve Ireland to a positive extent in the future.

The Deputy also spoke about the impact of social welfare supports. During my visit to Tanzania, that was one of the messages I brought home. Ireland supports the TASAF programme, which is being implemented by the Tanzanian Government and is targeting the million poorest families in the country. As the Deputy said, for somewhere between €8 and €10 a month, which we would describe as an insignificant amount of money, this is making a real difference to the lives of people. What is really smart is that all the money is being channelled through the women in those Tanzanian households. It empowers women. There is a deep and innate entrepreneurial thing going on in Africa. By their nature, Africans are entrepreneurial people. Many of the women we met were starting small businesses in their communities. They are the fundamental decision makers in the household in terms of their children's education and family's health, so to target that money and channel it through them is wise.

Deputy Grealish and Deputy O'Sullivan spoke about increasing our footprint, that is, our staff complement, on the ground in Africa. I agree that we should be considering it in the context of the discussions at this committee over the next number of months in preparation for the publication of the White Paper and moving towards our 0.7% goal in 2030. The Taoiseach speaks regularly about doubling the Irish footprint but we need to move beyond what seems to date to be the traditional understanding of that footprint. It is not alone about establishing a network of embassies and consulates around the world but about building on the strong relationships we have already developed, particularly on the African continent. Perhaps it means the recruitment of more local staff into those embassies across the African continent. It needs to be considered in terms of the overall ambition and moving towards the 0.7% target. Looking at our staff complement in these countries must be a critical part of it.

The Deputy spoke about the huge challenges around population growth and education. Education will play a vital role in addressing that population growth on the one hand while, on the other, empowering, for example, the 1 million Tanzanian young people emerging into the workforce. We need to look at the significant experience this country has garnered through FÁS and SOLAS in upskilling our own people. There is some ongoing collaboration deriving from the lessons we have learned in Ireland and how we gave a whole generation of Irish young people the skills to partake in the extraordinary economic growth we have seen over the past 50 or 60 years. I believe that those who are in their late teens, 20s and 30s in Africa are about to embark on that same journey.

When I was in Pretoria a number of weeks ago, I met the South Africa Gaels. This is a new Gaelic football club which has been set up by an extraordinary Irishman out there. We met seven or eight of these young African men and women, predominantly aged 18 to 22, one evening at a reception organised by the ambassador. Four of them came over to me but not to talk about Gaelic football. Frankly, they would have gotten a very strange response if they did because I know nothing about Gaelic football. Hurling I could have talked about. However, consistently and individually they asked me about education. That was the recurring theme for these young people: "How can you help me to be educated?" We need to keep that focus in mind. We have an extraordinary track record in terms of our footprint in Africa in education. If we build on that, we will play a significant role in helping them to address those challenges in the future.

I agree with Deputy O'Sullivan, who echoed the sentiments of Deputy Grealish, in praising the work of the ambassadors and their wives. As she remarked, they have a significant role to play in the daily life of our embassies and consulates around the world.

Deputy O'Sullivan also asked about education which I will address first. I agree wholeheartedly with her that there has to be a huge focus on the importance of education. In terms of TASAF, one of the key positive outcomes of that social welfare intervention has been greater access to education by the million poorest families in Tanzania. We need to keep focusing on improving access to education for marginalised groups while also seeking to address the quality of education so that there is a consistent quality across that education provision, particularly in the areas of numeracy and literacy, when children access education for the first time.

We also have a great track record in our continuing focus on girls' education beyond primary level. In terms of the cultural shifts that are required in these countries to eliminate gender violence and empower women to take up their role in society, enterprise and the economy, getting them from primary school and all the way through second level education is critical. We have a huge amount of experience in this country of ensuring that educational opportunities at second level and in further education and training respond directly to the needs of the labour market. In SOLAS we have an expert entity in doing exactly that and we have a lot of knowledge and experience to share.

Deputy O'Sullivan also spoke about the EU trust fund to Africa and expressed concerns about it. This trust fund for stability is addressing the root causes of irregular migration and the displacement of persons in Africa. While we have an emergency humanitarian response to the eventual migration occurring daily, we will never solve the problem unless we examine the underlying root causes. The trust fund is being used to support stability in the north-east region of Africa - the Sahel region and Lake Chad area. It is contributing to tackling the root cause of instability, forced displacement and irregular migration.

To date we have disbursed €1.2 million, which has been predominantly earmarked for the Horn of Africa. We are considering economic programmes to create employment opportunities in these regions so that the root cause of young men and women leaving is addressed and employment opportunities are presented to them in their own countries. We are also examining how to address resilience to support basic services for local populations. Again, we are addressing the most vulnerable refugees and displaced persons. We are investigating migration management to prevent irregular migration, fight human trafficking and providing for effective return and readmission.

I visited the refugee camp in Nduta in north-west Tanzania where there are 125,000 refugees from Burundi. I wanted to see, in particular, the repatriation and return element of the programme working. We visited that part of the camp where we saw an effective return and repatriation process in place. First, it was determined that each individual was going back of his or her own volition. This had to be made very clear. There was then a programme of support in terms of food, clothing, transport and all the other issues that might arise. The contribution we are making to that trust fund is helping to do that in each particular area.

The Deputy also spoke about doubling the footprint and examining other opportunities. I agree. As well as assuming that doubling our footprint internationally will bring significant economic benefits to Ireland in the future, we also have to consider the strong track record of Irish Aid in our international development work overseas.

One must include the Irish Aid element in any discussion of "doubling Ireland's footprint". The relationships we are building with certain countries, such as that of which I saw evidence on a recent visit to South Africa, and our long track record in supporting the most vulnerable there are beginning to pay dividends in terms of very strong trade relationships developing between those countries and Ireland. For example, there is €1.5 billion of trade annually between South Africa and Ireland. As such counties inevitably make their way toward economic resilience and ultimate economic growth, our relationships with them over the past 50 or 60 years will begin to bear dividends.

I apologise for being slightly delayed in getting to this session. I commend the work being done by the Department, Irish Aid and all our embassies and consular staff across the world because Irish Aid is a pillar of Irish foreign policy. The credibility of our commitments, in particular in respect of overseas development aid, is crucially important because they are public commitments and it is, therefore, the responsibility of the Government and Oireachtas to follow through on them.

I wish to specifically discuss the commitment of 0.7% of gross national income, GNI, to which the Minister of State referred. He stated that the Taoiseach recently reiterated a commitment to reach the UN target of 0.7% of gross national income by 2030, which was mentioned last year by the Minister of State's predecessor, Deputy McHugh, and then moved off the stage and not mentioned for some time. It is important that those commitments be given but there must then be movement towards meeting them, as has been discussed across parties at this committee. My belief as spokesperson on foreign affairs and trade, and that of my party, is that it must be done on a cross-party and multi-annual basis. It will not be achieved if we keep dealing with it on an annual basis and there is no point repeating that it will. In terms of the challenge facing Ireland in that regard, €707 million or 0.3% of GNI was allocated to official development aid, ODA, in 2017. Allowing for recognised growth rates, an increase of approximately €400 million will be required, bringing the total to €1.1 billion, if we are to reach 0.4% by 2022. However, to reach 0.7% by 2030 would require Ireland to pay €2.459 billion. I want us to get to 0.7% but we will have to pay that amount to so do and unless a big initial leap is made in the budget of this Government or the next, as was done in Britain, that will not be possible. A significant jump of approximately €200 million per annum up to 2020 would be required to get to 0.35% and then 0.4% thereafter.

I recently tabled questions to the Minister of State and the Minister, Deputy Coveney, on this issue which were answered by the Minister of State. Members know how that target can be attained but I ask in the context of this discussion and the review of Irish Aid that the Government begin addressing the issue on a multi-annual basis. The Minister of State will have a partner in my party in that regard. The coming three years should be planned for and each of the political parties and Independents allowed to have an input. I propose that be done through the Committee on Budgetary Oversight as the Government will be submitting its plans to it. Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Fine Gael and the Independents could agree that a pot of money is available and discuss whether an extra €200 million should be committed to official development aid. That must be done. There is no point in the Taoiseach or his successor saying we want and are going to hit 0.7% unless there is movement towards achieving that. I do not mean that in any disrespectful way. In the context of the current review of Irish Aid, I ask the Minister of State to make a policy decision that Irish Aid funding be allocated on an initial three-year cycle with a target of 0.35% by 2020 and state how that will be done and what money will be needed. A target of 0.4% by 2022 can then be set and how that will be achieved can be set out. The Minister of State understands my point. That must be done or there is no point discussing the target. The work being done is not being undermined but the credibility of our international commitments is very important in terms of issues such as seeking a seat on the UN Security Council. The Minister of State is aware of that as he is currently responsible for such matters. We have to see that through.

My final point relates to the definition of overseas development aid and a possible change in that regard. We should keep the current definition but include expenditure for in-country refugee costs, peacekeeping and so on. I completely agree with the points made by the Vice Chair, Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan, regarding oversight of multilateral aid programmes. There is a need for such programmes but we do not have enough oversight. As a Deputy and spokesperson for my party on this area, I could not get a commitment or clarity that none of the money we contribute to the EU-Turkey arrangement was being used for security purposes such as barriers and so on instead of solely for refugee and aid assistance. The Minister of State understands my point. We need to define official development aid and prevent money being taken out of the ODA pot if, for example, €30 million is needed to provide assistance for a catastrophe.

If we are to reach the 0.7% target, we should deal with it as a programme. We have the best of programmes running and the best of people responsible for them but if that target is a cornerstone of our foreign policy, as I believe it to be, we must start moving toward it.

I share the concerns of Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan in regard to the situation in Libya. Through our action and inaction in that regard, we are complicit in the events taking place there. We need to seriously consider current Government policy in respect of that part of the world.

Before the Minister of State arrived, evidence was given to the committee by witnesses from Palestine and the awful situation of the Palestinian people as a result of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine was discussed. References were made to Israel being an apartheid state and its continued human rights and international law violations. The view of some committee members is that the Government and Irish people must hold Israel to account and seriously consider banning the importation of goods from illegal colonial settlements and placing sanctions on Israel and its apartheid system.

Millions of euro worth of aid sent to Palestine, much of it paid for by the European Commission which is funded by EU member states, including Ireland, has been destroyed by Israel. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor estimates the total value of EU aid squandered by Israeli actions at €65 million between 2001 and 2015, inclusive, with at least €23 million destroyed during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014. What action is the Government taking to recover some of that funding? What is being done to try to get from Israel money to compensate for some of the damage it caused to property funded by Irish and European aid?

NGOs, many of which are funded by Irish Aid, are under pressure in some countries. Israel has put pressure on certain NGOs and others are under pressure in Turkey, among other places.

What additional supports can the Irish Government give to NGOs, which will need increased support in various parts of the world? The head of Amnesty International Turkey was arrested, for example. I agree with my colleagues on the multilateral spending of EU aid. Many of us have raised our concern that increasingly the focus has been moving away from bilateral spending and shifting more towards multilateral spending. Some of the contributors this morning talked about their recent trip to Malawi and so on. There should be some sort of reporting mechanism for the groups that come back. Is there any formal structure for that? I was on one trip and I saw the result of multilateral spending on a factory to make sunflower oil. There was a factory and machinery but there was no electricity or sunflowers growing in the area. That was just one example of something that is gone wrong within the system. I would not have seen it unless I went to it. I would not have been aware of it and I would not have been able to ask questions. There needs to be some sort of structure in which we can give feedback on some of these issues.

There are concerns about how transparent the funding is. I presume I will get a response saying there are all sorts of committees that will look at it. I am more concerned about what committee in this Parliament looks at ODA funding through EU institutions. Perhaps I am wrong, but I do not think we have ever had anyone before the committee to tell us where the funding is being spent. There needs to be a structure, whether it is through the finance committee or someone else. Clearly this committee is not doing it or at least not to the extent that I could go out and tell the public I am fully satisfied as to where all the funding is going because in many cases I do not know. I am appealing today that as part of the reform, a structure be established to make it work in order that we are able to tell our constituents where the money is going and that we are confident it is being spent in the right area. Could the Minister of State clarify, with regard to the EU institutions, how the money is being spent? Can the Department write to us and engage with the committee to tell us how and where the money is spent and, more importantly, come up with solutions for the best way to do that?

There was talk of the least developed countries, LDCs, to the effect that the funding should be focused on places where there is the greatest degree of hunger, fragility and insecurity. I agree with my colleagues. There needs to be some sort of plan for the UN target of spending 0.15% of GNI on overseas development. There needs to be some sort of plan, whether it is the three-year plan being talked about or another one. If there is a plan, I am not aware of it, as an Opposition spokesperson. We need to work together on how that is to be done.

The Minister of State touched on climate change. New figures from the Environmental Protection Agency show greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland increased by 3.5%. This is despite commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. The State could face fines of €450 million in 2020 for missing its legally binding targets. Will the Government redouble its efforts to tackle climate change at home and abroad? Have we plans to increase the number of key partner countries? Increasing the footprint has been mentioned. Does the Minister of State have any news on that?

With regard to the trip to Malawi and Mozambique, a report is being prepared and will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and forwarded to the Department. I understand the Department official who accompanied us is preparing a report for the Department. With regard to the Deputy's queries in regard to the funding we provide to international organisations such as the EU, we have a detailed note from the Department. The Department has also told us we can have a briefing with the relevant officials on all the expenditure.

That offer remains open.

We got a detailed note along with a huge amount of other correspondence. We have that detailed note and we can have a follow-up meeting as well.

I am concerned because it is a huge amount of money. I am concerned about the competence. Are we competent to go through this in the manner we should be going through it? It is a huge amount of money. I do not know but we should step back and look. I am not doing this to be adversarial; I am doing it to be helpful.

I think we will take up the offer of the meeting with Department officials first. If we need some other follow-up we can pursue it.

I apologise for being delayed. My short contribution, because I do not want to repeat what has been said already, will be on the overseas development aid and all the targets, such as the one of 0.7%. The committee has just heard from Deputy Crowe about what can happen when we get hung up with targets and find empty factories being built just as a contribution being made. Only that Deputy Crowe was there nobody would ever have known about this empty factory. As a small country with a proud record of work in overseas development, particularly by the religious orders that did a tremendous amount of work in development and teaching, a price cannot be put on that sort of work. We get hung up on figures to show the target of 0.6% or 0.5% has been met. If the money is being wasted in certain areas and other areas are being left short, surely it is time we target exactly what we mean by overseas development aid. As a small country, it is important we narrow it down to certain targets and concentrate on our money going into those areas and not being spread for the sake of reaching a target and throwing money at it.

The reality is we have a load of young, educated, committed people in this country today who can replace the religious orders that went before. Unfortunately the religious orders, whether Catholic or Protestant, are not in a position to supply the sort of personnel that was there before. One of the jobs the committee could do in overseeing overseas development aid is to investigate to develop a system where bright young people from this country could be targeted to go and do certain types of work that we would regard as overseas development aid. It could be in the areas of looking after the health of people or teaching, for example, but the most important thing is to target where our money is going. I am old enough to remember when one had to pay to go to secondary school. Unless one's parents had enough money one did not go to secondary school, one went down to the local tech. I am 73 years of age now. I lived through that. Parents made a huge contribution by saving and going without to send people to secondary school because we did not have free education.

Let us imagine the position those countries would be in if they had targeted free education, and the people to administer, teach, and build up that sort of resource. I think much of our energy and resources, although not only money, should go into supplying that type of assistance. I am absolutely certain that if a proper scheme was developed, it would attract young people to serve abroad for certain periods in certain areas, whether in medicine, teaching, or whatever, and that would be part of meeting our commitment to contribute 0.7% of gross national product. It is time we asked if we are getting the best out of our buck. We must ensure that we do not have the empty factories Deputy Crowe spoke about.

I would like to hear the Minister of State's views on this. It would take a bit of work, and it has to be driven by Government. This has to be ongoing. If there is a change of Government, it should not interfere. The programme should continue irrespective of who is in government. That will be part our 0.7% contribution. As a small country, we should genuinely review that whole area.

Before I call on the Minister of State, Deputy Canon, for his concluding reply, I will repeat what Deputies O'Sullivan and Grealish said about our visit to Malawi and Mozambique. It was my first visit to that part of Africa, and it was a real learning curve to see the levels of deprivation, poverty and hunger, and the desire of people to get a better way of life. The hunger for education among the most impoverished people was one thing that struck me. We saw the very inadequate health centres, and the difficult circumstances in which so many people are working. Again, the message given to us by representatives and ambassadors from other countries, and indeed people who had no connection with Ireland, was one of appreciation for the great work and the impact of Irish Aid. The EU ambassador felt very strongly about the great benefits that the work of Irish Aid has brought, and continues to bring, to so many people.

Deputy Barrett and other colleagues mentioned the role of the religious missionaries over the years. We met with some who were there all their lives. These people are literally in their 70s and are still ministering and working away in the most deprived areas. It was great to hear local people and representatives of other countries refer to the outstanding work that those people have done over many decades, and continue to do. As Deputy Barrett said, the numbers there reflect favourably on many religious denominations.

My colleagues, Deputies Grealish and O'Sullivan, referred to the areas of education, health and poverty. I am very glad that Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned that, per the Dóchas submission, the need of the people with disabilities as well needs to be advanced. That is very much the case. It has to be a particular focus.

In his introductory remarks, the Minister of State mentioned Irish potato seed technology. This has the potential to improve yields, and has already done so. Improving yields and productivity naturally brings increased incomes to the farmers. It improves their living standards and, very importantly, if those people have any surplus income, it is put away to pay for second level school fees.

We have the potential to be more actively engaged in knowledge transfer in the farming and agrifood sector. I mentioned previously to the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and to the Minister of State's departmental colleagues who are here today that we should be harnessing the potential of the private sector to engage in knowledge transfer to a greater extent. I know that some work is under way. I believe there is huge potential there. Many Irish companies started off as small indigenous enterprises, such as a creamery employing two people, and they are now international corporations. I am sure that there is good work going on between them and Irish Aid. However, that could be ratcheted up much more.

Deputy Barrett spoke about targeting young people to replace the missionaries who are no longer there. There is a cohort of people who are active but retired. Consider the people in the advisory and education service within the agrifood sector who are retired. Some of them were State employees and were employed by Teagasc, the universities and the agriculture colleges. There are also many people who carry out advisory and education work with the co-operatives and in the private sector. There is a wealth of knowledge there. It should be tapped, if only by having those people visit recipient countries for a short time or involving them in online education. I know that the latter option is not that simple in the countries in question because people do not have access to technology. The area could be dramatically improved. The Government should target those people who have the knowledge and experience, and who are still thankfully in good health and are fit to impart it in order to improve the lot of aid recipients farming very small acreage.

Knowledge transfer is needed, whether in animal husbandry or crop husbandry. In Malawi we saw the dramatic effects of knowledge transfer for potato growers. It helps ensure that the most nutritious crop varieties, particularly for feeding children, are developed. I represent two counties, Cavan and Monaghan, that have very large agrifood industries. The farmers there work difficult terrain such as drumlin soil. Growing up on a small farm, I remember that the farming community was always anxious to learn. People went on field walks. The co-operatives ran competitions to improve grass and silage production, cattle breeding and the fulfilment of the dietary requirements of animals. These efforts were all aimed at getting better yields and better production to improve the income of farmers. We were doing that throughout this country. I am familiar with it in my own constituency of Cavan-Monaghan, having grown up on a small farm.

We are discussing parts of Africa that are many decades behind our level of development, but we should be targeting knowledge transfer. It is also very cost-effective. We would empower people, deal with their nutritional requirements, as well as generate income for them. It would be so powerful in so many respects. As Deputy Barrett said, we can all help to get the message across that people could contribute in a very positive way to improving the lot of the most disadvantaged people in the world.

People often ask us how we spread the message that very valuable work is being done by Irish Aid. Deputy Grealish referred to that. None of us does it enough, because most of us have not experienced it first hand. If people have ownership of a project, they identify with it more. Maybe if companies in the agrifood sector from particular parts of the country entered into partnerships with particular countries in Africa, that could bring a sense of community ownership to the project. It might even help to create a better appreciation of the needs of those people in the most disadvantaged areas, the good work that is being done, and the great return on very small funding. The Irish people are generous. They respond to the appeals for help in the different crises that arise throughout the world. However, we need to constantly get the message across about the good work that is being done on a daily basis. We were privileged to meet many young people working with the different NGOs, in the countries we visited.

I understand Deputy O'Sullivan has a final question before I invite the Minister of State to make his concluding remarks.

How can we look further at the question of monitoring in the context of our membership of the development fund management committee? Perhaps the Minister of State can suggest ways in which we could be more supportive on the monitoring aspect.

There is a lot to absorb.

If the Minister of State does not get to any of our questions before the end of the meeting, he might write to us in response to them.

I thank the members of the committee. It is apparent from each of their contributions that they feel passionately about this subject. I agree completely with Deputy O'Brien's suggestion that the only way this will ultimately work is in collaboration. Members of all parties and Independents need to come together to form a collective view on how to move this in the right direction. We need to move towards a significant and greater contribution from the Irish people to overseas development aid. As Deputy Barrett has pointed out, we need to acknowledge that this contribution can come in many shapes and forms. As we seek to make a significant additional contribution, we need to have substantial ongoing scrutiny and oversight of every cent that is spent. We also need to ensure the money that is spent has a real, legitimate and tangible impact on the lives of people in difficult environments.

Like the members of the committee, my experience to date of travelling overseas has been nothing other than positive in this regard. When I spoke to women in north-west Tanzania who get TASAF payments of €6 a month, I saw the extraordinary impact such payments are having on their families. I travelled to a refugee camp of 125,000 people where children are being educated under trees and noted the presence of the Irish Aid logo at the bottom of a display board outside a new school that is being built 500 m away. I visited a water purification plant that is supplying water to 132,000 people in the refugee camp. I saw the Irish Aid logo and knew that our taxpayers' money and, ultimately, our people are having an impact in this area.

I agree with the remarks of all speakers about the need to make people more aware of the impact of our investment and our people on the ground in these locations. I am trying to do exactly that, predominantly through the use of social media and video. I will continue to do so. Members have done a very good job of using social media in this context. I suggest we need to use this tool to a far greater extent to tell very important stories about the impact of our people and our money in these locations.

I agree with Deputy O'Brien that aiming towards 0.7% in 2030 is a laudable aim. It will involve almost €2.5 billion, which is a very significant amount of money. I support the Deputy's suggestion that it should be done on an incremental basis. This should certainly be explored in the White Paper. I agree that the supplemental three-year increment needs to be looked at because 2030 is a long time away. If we do not make definitive incremental increases in what we provide over the intervening years, we will be going nowhere. This measure should be explored over the coming months as part of the White Paper process.

The Deputy asked how exactly we define overseas development aid. He wanted to know how we ensure there is no encroachment into the very pure definition of overseas development aid. I think such encroachment is unlikely to happen. In all of our discussions about the definition of overseas development aid, our overarching position has been that there is a need to maintain the integrity of overseas development aid as a concept with a distinct focus on development and poverty reduction. That should remain our focus and will remain our focus during the White Paper process. We believe that as the definition is strengthened, there should be a focus on benefitting recipients and targeting the poorest countries.

Deputies O'Brien and Barrett mentioned the issue of oversight, on which we need to focus relentlessly. If the Irish aid programme is to retain the strong credibility it has acquired nationally and internationally, we need to continue to focus on oversight. If possible, we should bring a greater degree of transparency to how our funds are spent and to the oversight associated with such expenditure.

Deputy Crowe spoke about transparency and oversight in the context of the EU. I want to refer specifically to our engagement with the EU because a significant portion of our development budget is channelled through it. Our engagement with an entity of the size of the EU allows us to amplify the impact of our response to all the significant challenges that are arising internationally. EU member states and the European Court of Auditors have generally been positive about the ongoing scrutiny of the EU's overall overseas development aid budget. As the EU's external auditor, the European Court of Auditors acts as an independent guardian of all the financial interests of the citizens of the Union. It checks that EU funds, including those spent on development, are correctly accounted for and spent in compliance with the relevant rules and legislation.

As we know, the UK is not a serious fan of the EU. I would argue that it has never been, to be frank. A review of the UK's multilateral engagement placed the European Development Fund in the top tier of its multilateral development partners and highlighted the fund's positive role in the achievements of poverty reduction and better governance. The UK's own scrutiny of its commitment to EU overseas development aid concluded that this money was well spent.

We are working with the EU and the UN to address the complex situation in the Middle East and Palestine. Our voice is amplified through the EU in putting pressure on governments to address the many ongoing human rights violations in that region. I would add, based on my experience of visiting Myanmar two weeks ago, that it is only by aligning ourselves with the EU, the UN, the ICRC and other organisations that we can amplify our voice in expressing our very significant concerns about the human rights violations that are occurring in many locations throughout the world. I remind the committee that the UN brought in Kofi Annan to design and recommend a response to the issues in Myanmar. I would argue that having the might and the heft of the UN behind that initiative was a significant factor in pressurising the Myanmar Government to respond in a meaningful way. I hope that will be the case. The solution we must find as we seek to bring about a positive result to all the significant challenges we face in this regard does not involve Ireland or any other country speaking on its own on issues like this as a lone voice in the wilderness.

The Deputy quite rightly pointed out that the situation in Libya is very challenging. Ireland is not currently giving any direct support to Libya. Conditions on the ground are disturbing. We are working with our partners, including the ICRC, the UN and civil society organisations, to make sure real needs are being addressed on the ground and to give people the best possible supports and responses in the context of the difficult circumstances they are facing.

Deputy Barrett mentioned that our missionaries have had an incredible track record of working with communities across the whole of Africa over many decades and rightly pointed out that this footprint is diminishing. We have an opportunity to fill that void and vacuum with young Irish people who are determined to contribute to the elimination of poverty across the world. It is difficult to understand how we can quantify that in the context of our ambition to move towards the 0.7% aid target. Perhaps we need to have that conversation as part of the preparation for the White Paper. The Deputy referred to the significant and beneficial impact of Donogh O'Malley's groundbreaking decision in the 1960s to make secondary education free to everyone and to the lessons we learned from that.

I take his point about capacity building in Africa and working with African governments to share our experience of that journey, from a time when my father could not afford to go to second level school to a point when we have the highest level of third level participation in the whole of the EU. That has been an incredible journey over just two generations. We have a lot to share in that regard.

The point being made was that we can only throw money at a problem for so long without addressing the underlying issues as to why poverty is arising in the first place, and as to why sufficient and high quality educational opportunities are not available to young people in these countries. That 0.7% has never been, and should not be, about simply movements of money to other locations. It is about working with governments in capacity building in education, agriculture, science and technology, which ultimately will empower them to move beyond a time when they need what we describe as traditional overseas development aid supports.

The Chairman spoke about the impact of the visit on him at a personal level, and that is something with which I can empathise. Tanzania was my first time setting foot on the African continent. In terms of my emotions, I oscillated the whole time between having incredible hope for the future from having met Tanzanian young people, as they were really bright and ambitious and determined to make the very best of their own lives for their communities and country, and then looking at the incredible challenges they face. Many of these challenges are with regard to poor governmental practices and poor politics, and we are working on capacity building with other governments. We need to make people more aware of our commitment and the impact Irish Aid is having.

It is correct that agriculture is a no-brainer, in terms of working with organisations such as Teagasc. The private sector was mentioned. We recently launched a programme between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in terms of supporting and funding Irish agrifood companies to establish a presence on the African continent. Many exciting things are bound to happen there. Teagasc is a knowledge base that we need to share significantly.

With regard to twining communities, Fingal County Council has a significant relationship with Lesotho, and Athenry, from where I come, has formed a relationship with a village in Kenya called Siminjaro, and through fundraising in Athenry a school and hospital have been built over the past decade. There have been significant opportunities for this in the past.

I have to go and vote. I thank the committee members for their very helpful contributions. The committee will play a major role in the development of the White Paper over the next number of months. I look forward to working with its members.

I thank the Minister of State. I want to put on the record our appreciation to the ambassadors of Malawi and Mozambique and their support staff. I also thank Elaine Hollowed from the Department, who has been most helpful.

With regard to leveraging the potential of the private sector, the major representative organisations are good at lobbying the Government on many issues, as we all know. Perhaps if they had a particular stream in their work they could pull things together.

The Department cannot be going to every operator and private sector entity. The representative organisations might be able to have a particular platform.

The IBECs of this world.

Yes. I thank the Minister of State for his engagement.

The joint committee adjourned at 12.25 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Thursday, 14 December 2017.